Charlotte: Petty post race interview

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Coke Zero Dodge Charger) -- 3rd NOTE: Petty turns 47 on June 2. He made his 797th career start Saturday night and his 51st start at LMS. Petty finished third Saturday night and move up spots in the series standings to 26th.

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Coke Zero Dodge Charger) -- 3rd

NOTE: Petty turns 47 on June 2. He made his 797th career start Saturday night and his 51st start at LMS. Petty finished third Saturday night and move up spots in the series standings to 26th. Petty has one victory, six top fives and 12 top 10s at LMS.

"Our car was good when the sun was out. We started so far back because of my stellar qualifying performance. We were 36th and then dropped back to last and then worked our way up to 27th when the sun was out under green just passing people, so the car was really, really good when it was slick. One of those corners got the shade first and when that happened we got out of balance. We were good in one corner and bad in the other corner and as the track cooled off we got really unbalanced. Billy (crew chief Wilburn) and I kept working with it and Billy made a couple of shock adjustments during the race and a couple of wedge adjustments and we probably didn't get it right until I got the Lucky Dog. When I got up front that set of tires and the way the adjustments came, we were probably 160-170 laps to go. Through the middle 120-130 laps of the race we were out to lunch. We just kind of hung in there all day. We had some really good pit stops. The pit crew has been down the past five or six weeks. We've really struggled with our pit crew and they stepped up huge today. They're the ones that put us in position to have the Lucky Dog. They're the ones that put us in position to have a good run there at the end. I can't say enough about that. The fuel mileage was good."

COMMENT ON CASEY MEARS

"I couldn't be more excited for Casey Mears if his name was Adam Petty. I can tell you that. I'm tickled to death for Casey Mears. That kid is a great racecar driver. He's very underrated. People don't pay a lot of attention to him. He's jumped in a Hendrick car and he's struggled some this year. There's going to be a lot of good things from him. He's going to be somebody to reckon with."

WHAT DOES A THIRD-PLACE FINISH MEAN TO YOU AND THE SPORT?

"I think when you look at the top three or four tonight, I would say they're all team efforts -- engine tuning to car handling to drivers to kind of saving fuel. We had nothing to lose. We had top 10 cars -- me, J.J., Reed Sorenson, we had top 10 cars all night long. We could race with those guys and be in the top 10. I couldn't run with Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart. There was no way. It took a team to beat those guys and our team beat 'em. I think when you look at it a 600-mile race is a long race. Nobody does it by themselves. I think this is a great example of why this is a team sport and how important the teams are."

We knew we could run ninth or 10th. We had got away from the 1 car and 88 and those guys and had about a straightaway on those guys. I could still see Tony and those guys but really I was focused on that Interstate Batteries car because that was my gauge. Billy started telling me the lap times I needed to run. He said you need to run 31.80s and then in the last 15 laps he said you need to run 32 flats. I thought we'd finish fifth or sixth. The last time I looked at the board we were fifth or sixth."

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE TEAM?

"I know for myself and Casey this is huge. I was 31st in points and Casey was 35th in points. We gave ourselves a little bit of a cushion. We've had good runs only to have them fall flat in the last third of the race whether it be a cut tire or stuff breaking. For us that was big. I think when you look at it, especially for Casey and myself, that part was huge. If you look at these cars, the 25 and 18 and 45, we were good top 10 cars all day long and it took a good team effort to do it."

IS THIS AS STRONG AS PETTY ENTERPRISES HAS BEEN IN AWHILE?

"I would like to think we're as strong as we have been. When you look at what Bobby has done and the amount of laps he's led and the finishes and the amount of times he's got a lap down and made it back up on the racetrack, that's big. I'd like to think we're getting stronger. I'd like to think six months ago we were stronger than we were six months before that, so yeah, there's not a good time to step out (of the car). I'm 46 years old and I'll be 47 on June 2. I'm just at that stage of my life where I want to do what I want to do and right now I want to do TV for a few races, so I'm going to step out. If we were winning races, I'd still step out. That's just where I'm at in my career. I think it gives John (Andretti) a chance to step into a car that's competitive. It gives Chad McCumbee a chance to step into a car that's competitive, and I know it's a big boost for the guys at the shop."

"We knew we could run ninth or 10th. We had got away from the 1 car and 88 and those guys and had about a straightaway on those guys. I could still see Tony and those guys but really I was focused on that Interstate Batteries car because that was my gauge. Billy started telling me the lap times I needed to run. He said you need to run 31.80s and then in the last 15 laps he said you need to run 32 flats. I thought we'd finish fifth or sixth. The last time I looked at the board we were fifth or sixth."

"Our pit crew has struggled and they stepped it up tonight. We beat people out of the pits every time. The guys with the Evernham engines and everybody has worked on fuel mileage, and it really paid off tonight. This is big for us. I don't know how much gas is let in the car. I drove it in, so I figure I've got plenty left. If I get it from here to the truck that's all that matters. All I was praying for was no green-white-checkered at the end. That would have killed us. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain and that put the Coke Zero car in the top three. Bobby has been able to do it and we haven't been able to capitalize on it. Casey Mears had a great race tonight. I congratulate those guys. He's a great racecar driver and he's going to be a great racecar driver. For us this is like I'm 21 again and I'm driving for Felix Sabates in the Mello Yello car. I like the long races. I'm not much of a sprint racer. Bobby has been able to do it on some of the big tracks, but we just haven't been able to do it. It just comes. In all honesty it's just a race. We didn't change the world tonight. It feels good to come back and race with these gjuys. I would have took that and gone to the house tonight. I guess third place was just the cherry on the sundae."

COMMENT ON YOUR TEST AT LMS

"I thought we had a good test with this car. Everywhere we've had this car it's been good. Contrary to what it sometimes appears, I don't come to the racetrack every week to run 35th. I do a lot of times. I'm driving my butt off to run 35th, and I can honestly say this. I ran 28th at Vegas or somewhere like that and felt like I drove harder than I did tonight and was prouder of that finish because I took a car that I felt was a 43rd place car and finished 28th with it. Tonight we ended up with a top 10 car and because of the team effort and the team worked well together... We made good calls in the pits, Billy (crew chief Wilburn) made great calls in the pits and everything worked. We ended up in the top three and you look at me and think 'maybe he hadn't forgot how to drive,' but that's not it. Everything has to come together, and that's what happened. You talk about Zippy and Tony, when you get that type of relationship and you're able to work with somebody and you start to work better and better and these finishes come and they come no matter what you do. You can leave the racetrack and you'll be mad because you finished fifth instead of being happy because you beat everybody on a pit stop."

DOES THE FACT THAT A LOT OF DIFFERENT GUYS RAN WELL IN THE 600 HELP THE SPORT?

"Do I think it's good for the sport? Yeah, I think it's good that Casey Mears won the race and J.J. Yeley ran second. It shows the sport is healthy. I think sometimes we get stagnant. Look, we've gone through this a million times. We went through the time when Tony won all the races. We went through the time when Dale Sr. won all the races. We went through the time when Jeff or Jimmie wins all the races. You need that variety and the sport needs that mixup. We need those guys to come in and win races and run good and show people we're not just all lapped cars out there. We can come out here and win races and run good every now and then, so I think it's good when you look up... A lot of times I'm out there running and I look up at the scoreboard and I'm thinking "David Ragan is having a pretty decent run out here tonight' or 'J.J. is having a good run.' Just like tonight that 18 car was in the top six or seven all night long. He was there. I guess I'm at that place in my career and in the sport where I want to see new guys jump in here and win races. I want to see new guys come in here and do good like Carl did a few years ago. I don't know why you're ditching the Hendrick thing because the 25 car is still a Hendrick car, so it's still dominant, but when you look at it it's good to see somebody else. This is the Coca-Cola 600, and I think that's what's so special about the Coca-Cola 600. That last 100 miles, if you go back and look through history.... Let's go back 20 years because it's been 20 years since I won this race. Even the year I won it, it was like nobody wanted to lead. Everybody who led blew up, ran into the wall or something happened to 'em. It's like I get the lead with 10 laps to go or something and there wasn't enough time for me to screw it up so I won the race. That's kinda the way it worked. I think it's that last 100 laps in this race that's good. It took a lot of heat, but I'm going to tell you what. This tire mixed it up. This tire being slick and the race track being slick, the racetrack-tire combination, I'm not going to say it was all tire, I'm going to say the racetrack-tire combination mixed it up and guys who are drivers could drive the racecars tonight. I saw J.J. at Darlington in that Silver Crown car and if you can drive that thing around Darlington he can run that 18 car here at Charlotte all night long."

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?

"In all honesty it's just a race. We didn't change the world tonight. It's just a race, and I guess I'm at that stage where it's just a race. It feels good. It feels dang good to come and race with these guys, to race side-by-side with J.J. To race side by side with Ricky again and Reed. Some of these guys are 20 years younger than I am. To race and be competitive with these guys feels good. I would have taken that and gone to the house tonight. The third place, that's just a cherry on the sundae as far as I'm concerned. I guess if I was 21 or 22 and that's the best finish I'd ever had then maybe I'd be making a wet spot on the seat right now. It's just a race. It's good for Petty Enterprises. It's good for those guys at the shop who've worked the past five or six years every day, know they maybe weren't going to get anything out of it on Sunday afternoon. And Bobby's run the way he's run and finally for us to finish and run the way we ran, for those guys it's big. I feel better, too."

IS THIS THE DIRECTION YOU'D HOPED TO BE HEADED NOW?

"Yeah, but you're talking to the wrong person now. I just show up and drive. You need to talk to talk to Robbie Loomis and all the changes that were made there. A lot of the direction I took the company five years ago, we've kinda of changed that direction since Robbie's come and Bobby's come. You've got to say it's a good direction because we've been more competitive and we've been more consistent. It's good. We'll just keep adjusting to get competitive. We're not that type of team that can do this week in and week out. We're not that kind of team. We've got to build ourselves back to that but the last two or three years we've built ourselves up and we're getting closer to that."

ADDITIONAL COMMENT ON CASEY MEARS

"Casey drove a Dodge. He drove for Ganassi. Sometimes you guys sit in here and watch a race but you see an entirely different race than what goes on on the racetrack. If you're on the track and you're racing J.J. Yeley, you know how hard he's driving every single lap. When you race Casey Mears you know how hard he's driving every single lap. It doesn't matter if you're racing for 43rd or you're racing for second. A lot of the time these guys don't get credit for some of the things they do. The press and media flock to the guy that wins, and that's the way you should, but these guys don't get the credit. I think Casey left Ganassi and went to Hendrick and it's not been a bed of roses over there for the first 10 races this year. I think Casey is a good guy, he and his family, his father and his uncle. He works hard at it and he tries had at it and to finally be able to come out and do something, I'm just ecstatic for him. I really am. I like to see those guys come up and who have paid their dues and worked hard to get where they're at finally have it paid off. I was pulling for J.J. tonight. He was in front of me. They told me the 25 pitted, so I was pulling for J.J."

WAS THIS YOUR BEST FINISH WITH PETTY ENTERPRISES?

"I don't know. The best years I had were with Felix and that's the way it was. Felix was the first guy to come by the car to congratulate me. Like I told you guys when I came back to Petty Enterprises. My goal was not about Kyle Petty. It was about Petty Enterprises, and I think that's the bigger thing for me."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Adam Petty , Casey Mears , J.J. Yeley , David Ragan , Reed Sorenson , Robbie Loomis , Chad McCumbee , Felix Sabates